Do you want to declutter your closet? Here are three key things that helped Elsie purge half her wardrobe!
By Elsie Callender, Contributing Writer
When I got really, truly serious about simplifying all of my possessions, my closet was the first thing I purged. It was a no-brainer for me. I know that the way I dress each day affects my entire outlook, so I figured that if I wanted to achieve simplicity in my home it made sense to set the tone with my wardrobe.
I had tried to simplify my wardrobe in the past, but always went about it in the wrong way. Each spring or fall, I would look through my seasonal clothes and pick out a few items to get rid of. I probably retired about 5 to 10 items per year. Of course, over the course of the year I’d also buy 5 to 10 new items. So I never really reduced the amount of clothing in my closet, just shuffled up the options.
Finally, about three years ago, I switched my tactics and did a radical decluttering. I ended up purging about half my wardrobe! All of my clothes, regardless of the season, can now fit (with room to spare!) in my portion of the closet and dresser. I even gave up a dresser drawer to use for my son’s clothing! None of my clothes, accessories, or shoes are in storage, except for a small box that contains my minimalist maternity wardrobe.
Looking back, there are 3 key things that helped me to see my wardrobe in a different light and allowed me to purge half of it.
3 Things That Helped Me Purge Half My Wardrobe
1. Creating a vision for my wardrobe
The first key to paring down was becoming more mindful of what I wanted in a wardrobe. I thought about what my ideal wardrobe should look like, how I wanted to present myself in the way I dressed, and what I valued. I honed in on what I wanted my personal style to be. I decided I wanted a wardrobe that was:
- Classy (elevating my standards for dress helps me to be more confident)
- Classic (I want pieces with longevity, that won’t go out of style)
- Comfortable (I’m not one to sacrifice comfort for beauty!)
- Feminine (I love skirts and dresses and flattering lines!)
- All-occasion (I more or less wear the same clothes during the day that I would on a date night)
Understanding what I wanted in a wardrobe helped me with the decision-making process of simplifying, and it’s also been a guideline for future clothing purchases. (Remember how decluttering my home changed the way I spend?)
2. Identifying my emotional response to items
I once heard that most people wear 20 of their wardrobe 80% of the time, and I decided I wouldn’t be one of those people. So I used to try my best to cycle through everything in my closet, even though some of the items didn’t excite me one bit. I felt resigned to wearing them. I would arrange it so that I could wear clothes I disliked on days when I knew I wouldn’t be doing anything very fun or social.
When I purged half my wardrobe, it was like a light bulb went off in my head! Why was I keeping things I felt ambivalent about–or worse, that I downright disliked?
As I pulled every item out of my closet and dresser one by one, I paid attention to my emotional response to each piece. Here are some of the responses:
- Guilt (I should wear this more often)
- Excitement (I wore this on that date!)
- Confidence (I know this always looks good on me!)
- Frustration (I can never make this work without a tank top)
As I made selections for what I should keep, I built my new, pared-down wardrobe around pieces that fit my vision and that I was happy to wear. I wasn’t focusing on getting rid of “negative energy” or anything weird like that; I simply didn’t want to open my closet and feel guilty or frustrated or regretful!
3. Being brutally honest
As I examined the clothing that didn’t excite me much, I tried to zero in on why I’d been keeping these items. I discovered 5 main reasons:
- Sentimental value
- So-called classics that every closet “must have”
- They still fit
- I was used to wearing them
- Because I had other items that served the same purpose (so why not another?)
I had to face the fact that these clothes were a burden, and they simply didn’t make me feel pretty or put together or excited. It was an important exercise, because it’s made me more cognizant of the underlying reasons why I cling to clutter–not just in my wardrobe, but in other areas of my home as well. Identifying my rationalization patterns has helped me to break the cycle of returning clutter, too.
Your turn to purge!
My wardrobe is still a work progress, as I continue to discover my personal style, learning to live with less and loving what I live with more. If you’re ready to begin (or continue) your own journey to a simple wardrobe that reflects your vision, here’s what you might want to read next:
To see your current wardrobe in a whole new light, check out Erin’s post and photos on “shopping” from your own closet.
If you identify yourself as a simple living enthusiast but not a minimalist, my “Rule of 10” post is a helpful starting point that you can tweak for your needs.
For a how-to guide to the process of editing your own wardrobe, I have chapters on clothing, accessories, and shoes in my book, Your Simple Home Handbook. I’ve also written on these topics in a more condensed version on my blog.
Wow Elsie! That is so awesome. 🙂 It is really great to give away your things if you have excess because someone else can use it.
Thank you, Keelie! It takes a little extra work, but I agree that it’s important to be responsible in HOW we get rid of our un-needed stuff!
Lisa @ This Pilgrim Life
Decluttering my closet is one of the best things I’ve done in the past couple of years. I didn’t realize how much a difference it could make, but it really does streamline getting dressed and ensures that I actually like all the choices. I feel like I finally feel good about the clothes I put on, and in consequence, have taken more pride in looking put together.
To answer your question, I would say that “feminine, simple, and neat” are the words I would describe my clothing choices. I hate looking sloppy and I really enjoy little feminine details like lace and pleats.
That’s awesome about your decluttering. I feel the exact same way! I enjoy looking put together.
I love your wardrobe words! I’ve found that my descriptor words help to inform my buying decisions, so I’m a more intentional spender.
I love your suggestions! I transitioned from work to home a few years ago and I’ve slowly purged the items I’m no longer using. Great post!
Thanks, Aimee! I made that transition as well. I was a teacher for a few years and accumulated some business-type wear that I no longer needed once I started working from home.
I did the same with my jewelry collection. I envisioned myself wearing the piece then tried to gauge my reaction to it. There were things I bought several years ago that I have worn a minimal amount of times and didn’t really like, yet I hang onto for years because I felt guilty for not wearing it enough. Now that it is purged, it is a sense of relief and I don’t have the mental weight of feeling guilty that I bought it and don’t wear it. I’ll have to do the same with my closet, it can be a tough process, but the results will be worth it.
That reminds me–I need to go through my jewelry again! It’s been years since I have, and I know I’m just hanging on to some things for the wrong reasons!
Great ideas! I just went thru a bunch of my summer clothes and was like “why am I keeping these things??” I wrote a similar post called “How a Capsule Wardrobe Simplifies Life.” http://simplynatureplusnurture.com/2015/10/20/frugal-living-simple-life-wardrobe/
Hope it’s helpful!
Thanks, Mary! Great post! I love reading about wardrobes–and simplifying them(:
I purged some of my wardrobe. I love most of my clothing. I do keep some I don’t like as much for things like painting or working in the yard where clothing can get caught on briars.